Alarm bells: how can a designer recognize an incorrect test task?

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Checking the designer's skills with the — the fastest and most efficient way to recruit an employee for a staff or project. Experienced designers know what a test task can be. For beginners, this is not obvious — Because there are no clear rules. What to look for when receiving a test task? What signals should immediately push you away, and in what situations can you try to negotiate mutually beneficial conditions with potential employers? Irina Cherkashina, graphic designer, graduate of the Skillbox course “Graphic Designer from Zero to PRO”” talks.

Test task — a universal way to test the skills of a novice designer who has not yet acquired an impressive portfolio. But not all employers follow an honest policy towards potential employees. Excessive caution never hurts. We tell you what you should pay attention to when receiving a test task.

Information about the employer
Before starting the task, you should carefully study the information about the company in open sources. How long has it been in existence? Is it registered as a legal entity? Much can be learned from the website of the organization — look at case studies, customer testimonials. Scroll through social networks — if the employer actively conducts them, he is probably open to dialogue with the audience. In a good way, studying a potential employer is before applying for a vacancy, but if you forgot about it or the offer came to you by itself — time to do a mini-investigation before you spend time and energy on the task. 

If you don't find the — This is the first point that should alert. Think about how a company finds customers if it does not tell about its activities? But you can turn a blind eye to the negative reviews of former employees, unless, of course, there are dozens of them. Perhaps the human factor is involved here, and the employee simply harbors a grudge against the previous employer. 

Reservation of copyright by the performer
If at the initial acquaintance with the company it seemed reliable, this is not a reason to get rid of all doubts. There are unscrupulous employers who give the applicant a test task, and then begin to use the fruits of the designer's work without his consent. In order not to lose the authorship of your work, use a watermark. If you want to prevent such situations, you can sign an agreement on the impossibility of using the work performed. When an employer refuses to enter into an agreement — this is another potential warning sign. 

Test size
There are no unified rules on the format of a test task, but elementary professional ethics must be present. The designers themselves are inclined to believe that the ideal test task should be completed in 3-4 hours. Of course, this is individual, because people work at different paces. However, if we take the average speed of work, then such a volume will be optimal to test the skills of the designer. 

A large test task should be alert, the execution of which will take more than one day. In this case, there are three options. First — agree, but ask to pay for the work. At the same time, it is necessary to conclude an agreement, according to which the work must be paid. Second — ask for a task of a smaller volume, but this must be done with reason. And if the employer does not agree with any of the proposals, then the third option — refuse the test task.

Communication with the employer
Last but not least, — pay attention to the process of communication with the employer. If during the initial acquaintance with you they already communicate incorrectly — this is a bad sign. For example, often after the initial selection based on a resume, an employer wants to communicate with a potential employee via an online call or a face-to-face meeting. And it is necessary to agree on the time in advance, and it must suit both parties. And if you are offered to “phone in 15 minutes” or “drink coffee tonight” — This is at the very least disrespectful of your time. Of course, you don't have to stop talking right away. But if you meet a negative reaction to the proposal to postpone the date or time — think about whether you need an employer who does not respect your boundaries from day one? There can be many such signals during communication, so you should rely on your feelings. If you feel that communication is not constructive, it is better to stop it.

Tips: To model your own expectations, it is better to ask the employer in advance how many rounds of interviews are planned and who exactly from the company will take part. It is assumed that the first interview with the designer will be conducted by an employee of the personnel department — he will talk about the company, the functionality of the future employee, and answer questions. Often, it is HR that can give the designer a test task, but it will be checked by an employee of the design department, in fact, the “customer”. A future manager or a senior designer will already be invited to the second round of interviews, who will be able to competently assess the level of specialized skills of the applicant. 

And if the test was not given?
Interestingly, the absence of a test task for a novice designer should also alert. Of course, it is very pleasant to be hired right away, but think soberly — how can an employer focused on quality work accept a newbie without a portfolio? The only fact that justifies this phenomenon — the presence of a test period. This is the period of time during which the employer will in practice assess the skills of the applicant and his ability to get along with the team. Such a period usually lasts no more than a month. 

Expert opinion: Tatyana Minaeva, headhunter and career consultant, speaker of the Skillbox course “How to find a job today. Express course with career advice”. 

Test tasks — popular practice in various fields of activity, including design. To understand the effectiveness of such a test of a potential employee, let's understand what alternatives an employer has for testing design skills? First level — ask: are you a good designer? Do you have experience in creating logos, promotional materials? It is obvious that the method is inefficient. Second level — ask more specific questions: how many times have you created logos, how many promotional materials have you had in your experience? What target audience were they for? Already better, but still not significant. Third level — give a case in an oral format. For example, you have a task — remove the pedestrian crossing from the photo. Your actions? Allows you to evaluate the competence of the designer, but not visually. Level four— look at the designer's portfolio. This is a good tool for assessing the skills of the applicant, but employers complain that it is not clear how much time a person spent on this task, how he will meet the deadlines. In addition, the portfolio may contain voluminous projects, the contribution of the candidate to which is not clear. Level Five — give a test. In this case, you can see both the skills and the ability to fit into deadlines, and the applicant's reaction to feedback and requests for adjustments. Level Six — call candidates immediately for a trial period and look at them immediately in action. The problem is that you need to test several candidates at the same time, and accordingly pay them all.

Of all the levels, the test task seems to be the most reasonable solution. Of course, in many professions, you can give a task for 10-30 minutes, a person can complete it right at the interview and not feel that he spent a lot of time. But in design it doesn’t work that way, it often takes several hours to complete the task. It is optimal when the employer pays for this work. Now there is a tendency to popularize the culture of payment in Russia. For the company, these are not so big expenses, but they bring applied value.

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